Thursday, 15 October 2015


Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig
Supergrover admiring the art in our Annaghmakerring bedroom
I am on retreat all this week at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan, hammering novel #4 into shape. It is not going badly at all. I was absolutely dreading re-reading the MS, a first draft of which I finished in late April. But, you know, it is proving to be a pleasing read/edit so far and I am relieved and thankful for that.

Annaghmakerrig Lake
A few of us stayed up til the wee hours this morning, talking feminism and writing, and we had a very jolly time. Too jolly maybe - we're all a little tender today. I am going to go out by the lake for more air shortly; my head is befogged.

The gardens here are aglow with dahlias
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, work continues on Emily Dickinson's house and the latest project is the restoration of Emily's beloved conservatory, her 'little garden within'. See below for details and please consider helping the work along with a small donation. Or, if you're loaded, a large one :)

Desk view, Annaghmakerrig
Art in the hallway

The following is the latest newsletter from the Emily Dickinson Museum:

Architects' rendering of the rebuilt conservatory
Emily Dickinson's conservatory was removed in 1916. 100 years later, we're bringing it back. The bedroom, the garden, the kitchen: all are essential spaces that quickly spring to mind when thinking about the physical locations that inspired Dickinson's poetry. The conservatory, built by her father when the family returned to the Homestead in 1855, is another. In this diminutive greenhouse Dickinson maintained her link to the vibrant natural world during the frigid New England winters. She tended flowers "near and foreign," as she wrote to Elizabeth Holland in March 1866, in a space six feet deep and seventeen feet wide where she had "but to cross the floor to stand in the Spice Isles."

The deep connection between Dickinson and her horticultural pursuits permeated her poetry and daily life. Imagine dirt under the poet's fingernails as she wrote the poems that immortalized flowers blooming in her garden, home, and Amherst wilderness. The conservatory allowed her to follow this passion year round. Through its windows, Dickinson could view the gardens and orchard that she frequented in the warmer months. From the native species and fragile exotic specimens she grew inside would come the blooms and bouquets sent with letters and poems to her beloved friends in even the coldest months of the year. To tell the Dickinson story more fully we need to restore the conservatory.

1916 image of Emily's conservatory
Dismantled in 1916, many of the conservatory's original architectural elements - including its window sash and original door - survive. In the past two years archaeological investigations of the southeastern corner of the house where the conservatory stood have unearthed its foundations and other important historical details. With photographic, documentary, archaeological, and even poetic evidence in hand, we're ready to bring Emily Dickinson's conservatory back to life. But we'll need your help to do it.

Our fundraising goal for reconstructing and maintaining the conservatory is $300,000, of which over $100,000 has already been raised.

Since its founding in 2003, the Emily Dickinson Museum has undertaken several projects that provide visitors with a more authentic understanding of the world inhabited by the Dickinsons. The restoration of Emily Dickinson's bedroom and library, return of the hedge and fence that connect the Homestead and Evergreens properties, repainting of the homes in their historic colors, and, coming soon, an heirloom orchard allow visitors to step back in time through a personal encounter with the poet's world possible nowhere else. The conservatory will add another critical detail to that immersive experience.

In her letter to Mrs. Holland, Dickinson also wrote that "We do not always know the source of the smile that flows to us." We hope that this project provokes many joyful smiles among those who care about the Museum's mission of interpreting and sharing the story of Emily Dickinson and her family. You can express a bit of that joy by contributing to making the conservatory a reality. We thank you in advance for your support of this latest step in returning the Museum grounds to a place Emily Dickinson would have recognized and in which she would have felt at home.

Donate to the Conservatory Reconstruction Fund by contacting the development office at 413-542-5084 or Or donate online here.


Tania Hershman said...

How lovely that you are there, retreating! Wish I was there with you - although with my rotten cold, I suspect it's best this way. Hoping to come next year. Work well, play well. xx

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

It's thanks to you, lovely! I'm so glad we arranged to meet here, so sad you couldn't make it. I am enjoying it and meeting the usual cohort of fabulous people. Get well soon, dearest. Next year, the pair of us, here. N x x xx